MasterChef is glamorising the food industry so much that bored professionals are quitting their jobs to open their own restaurant with no experience or idea of how hard it is, top chefs say.
"What some people are thinking is that anybody can do this job," owner and head chef of Sydney's two-hat restaurant Bistro Ortolan, Paul McGrath, told ninemsn.
"You've got accountants and lawyers going 'you know I feel like a sea change, I'm going to open a restaurant'."
Having cooked for royals and celebrities including Queen Elizabeth, the Sultan of Brunei, Princess Mary and Crown Prince Frederick, Bono and Mick Jagger, McGrath is one of many renowned chefs who believe Network Ten's hit reality show, now in its third season, has had a number of negative side-effects on the industry.
"[MasterChef] doesn't give an all-around picture about what a restaurant involves, about what doing this for the rest of your life involves," McGrath said.
The 2010 Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year and head chef of Sydney's new Duke Bistro Mitchell Orr — a guest on season two of MasterChef — agrees the show does not give "a real reflection of what happens in the kitchen on a day-to-day basis".
And fellow guest chef Tony Bilson — a 40-year restaurant veteran dubbed "the Godfather of Australia cuisine" who owns multiple Sydney restaurants — says there is a lot more to running a restaurant than "producing good food on a plate — there's managing the whole service and experience of the customer".
McGrath says it takes around 10 years working in a kitchen before a chef has the skills needed to run their own restaurant and viewers should be aware contestants are not "qualified or capable" chefs.
But fans are making life-changing decisions after being seduced by the "romantic, exciting side" of the industry as show by a TV kitchen.
"They are trying to portray the excitement and the adrenaline and the heat of service and pressure that's involved but I guess it doesn’t show so much of the early morning starts and peeling prawns and shelling lobster and peeling hazelnuts," McGrath said.
Celebrity chef syndrome
Orr believes the show has inspired a lot of wannabe celebrities and not many real chefs.
"I don’t think it encourages people to join the industry I think it just gets people saying, 'Oh I can get my face on TV and then get a book deal'," Orr said.
McGrath said he has had to inform several prospective apprentices who are chasing the MasterChef dream that not everyone gets to be famous.
"I always ask why do they want to be a chef, and I've heard MasterChef mentioned several times.
"They want to be like the people on the show, and they're not refering to the contestants but referring to the celebrity chef factor," he said.
But MasterChef has also had positive effects on the industry, including encouraging people to go out to eat in restaurants and making people passionate about food and cooking.
Bilson said the show has made young kids care about what's on their plate and believes it will have a long term affect on Australians' attitudes towards food.
"I've heard some really funny stories from parents having eight-year-olds come home from school and criticising the chops and mash."